When you meet Carmyn, the first thing you notice is not her petite size–it’s her incredible energy! She has that star quality. I’ve had the great pleasure to hear her perform live, and can attest to her powerhouse voice. She sings a wide variety of music from her own original songs, to opera, hard rock, and everything in between. The following excerpts are from an online interview with Greco-French singer Carmyn, November 7, 2016…
The last time we spoke, you were recording in the studio. Is your album complete?
We are currently recording my vocals, and my guests are also recording their parts ! Still some synthesizers to add, and some arrangements, and we shall be done with the recordings. And then, the last step ahead will be the mixing & mastering process ! We’ve been working on this album for a long time now … We entered the recording studio last year, and have been working on my demos for an entire year prior to that. I actually started working on this album right after my first EP was out, in 2014.
Who are your musical influences?
I love old school hard rock bands like Wolfsbane, The Almighty, Phantom Blue, WASP, Toto, Mr Big ; but also classical music (especially Händel, Chopin, Italian operas). Of course Greek music, and I admire jazz / blues / gospel singers like Mahalia Jackson, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole. Their technique is absolutely stunning, and so is also the emotion they put out. Last but not least, I’m a big fan of Michael Jackson, and the Jacksons.
What is the name of your new album?
It’s called Sophomore, and I know that you know exactly what that means ! I wanted to have a Greek title, as I believe everything derives from Greek culture, and I want to keep my tradition of numbers going. This is my second discographic endeavour, and to qualify my work as a “sopho” + “moro” (= baby) seems quite appropriate and accurate for the time being.
What is the release date?
I bet on February 2017 !!
How is this album different from your last one?
Very much, in every regard. First of all, this is a full-length record, so the feeling is different. My EP “One” was a sort of a “still” of that time between 2010 and 2014, when I would be performing everywhere, with my rock band. The feeling was a “live” one, with catchy hard rock songs with “industrial” arrangements. “Sophomore” is way more “ambient”, but also paradoxical : there are some “heavy” songs, as well as romantic ones. Some also contain symphonic elements like violins, cellos, harps … I even did some hip hop vocals on one song. You shall be very surprised ! It’s definitely a blend of my musical world.
What are the songs about? Is there a theme, or are they all different?
As always, my songs are about self-experience, self-affirmation, and personal struggles. There is a lyrical thread throughout the record, and I take the listener from dark places (like the experience of lost love, or just being forsaken) to a position of self-empowerment, through nasty, painful, or heart-breaking experiences.
Who are the other musicians on the record?
The basic idea for this record was to work with friends – and not hired guns – for once. It didn’t turn out to be completely like that, way down the line, but I intend to achieve it in the future. On the drums, you will find a French musician called R.U.L. ; he brought a very interesting touch, as he comes from death metal, originally. Serbian Deni Marinovic recorded the guitars & the bass, and, I believe, brought a very cool Slavic vibe to the songs. Cédric Guesdon, the producer of the record, also brought his gothic vibe to the album ! I believe these three guys invested themselves in this record, and were quite passionate about it – which I am very appreciative of. There also are many guests (on the guitar solos, and on the vocals) : musicians that I am fond of, and I am sure you will love too !
Do you perform together? What inspired you to make music together?
Of course, we did some shows together in the past (especially with Deni), so I knew that the chemistry was there. On the guests, there are two of my Thriller Gang guys (my hard rock tribute band to Michael Jackson & the Jacksons).
I wrote all the songs. Two of them were co-written by me + one of my best friends, guitarist Mony Sam. And Deni arranged some of the songs with me, too.
How long have you been writing songs?
Some date as far back as 2006. It’s a ten-year span. Because it’s autobiographical, I believe that these songs are timeless and relevant at any given time. I like going back-and-forth on songs that I write : for many of this record’s songs, I recorded demos, performed them live, gradually enriched them with new elements, until a point when I decided they were ripe and interesting enough to be on a record.
What is your favorite song you have written?
I love “Angel Eyes”. It’s a symphonic ballad, that was inspired to me by a dream I once had.
What is your favorite song to play live because of the audience’s reaction?
I think “A Light In The Dark” appeals to the audience, insofar as it carries a deep spiritual interrogation felt by many : the search for a meaning in this life, for a symbolic light to guide us through the darkness, or harsh times.
What is something you do before every concert?
I warm up. Because I also teach singing, and coach many other vocalists, I know the importance of being well-prepared.
What instruments do you play?
Piano and the guitar. I actually started music with the piano, when I was five.
Do you have any favorite gear you take to every gig? Why do you recommend it?
I love my Gibson “The Paul” guitar. Also, my foot pedal with many effects like the Flanger, for example. I’m crazy about effects. I always use Sennheiser microphones, I love their versatility for the stage. And I always carry a Yamaha synthesizer, they have cool sounds, and a very good quality / price compromise.
What is the story behind your stage name?
“Carmyn” was a name given to me when I was studying theater in high school. We had a great program, one year, that was called “OAL” (“opéra au lycée” = opera in high school), and I would be portraying Georges Bizet’s “Carmen”. My fellows thought that I made a perfect Carmen, because of my short-temper, and my wearing red all the time. They just added an “y” (i-grec) as a reference to my Greek ancestry. I also happen to love Prosper Mérimée’s “Carmen”, I’m in awe with her way of treating men ! So impressive …
Where are your favorite venues to perform in Paris?
I’ve loved playing at the Cigale in Paris, with my rock band, a couple of years ago. Mythic artists like Max Linder, Mistinguett, Arletty, Edith Piaf, have performed there ; and recently, people like Prince, Kylie Minogue, Iggy Pop… So it was an incredible honor, as you can imagine. And I love playing in uncanny places, like a Japanese “kabuki” theater, called “Le Théâtre du Temps”, I once organized a showcase in.
What has been your biggest challenge as a professional musician?
Trying to get a personal life … Nobody ever warns you how solicited you will be when you are making music your business. The problem is : you don’t get to have a regular 9 to 5, so the time shifts can be very blurred. Moreover, when your passion is your work, you don’t actually realize when you are working, and when you are not. And neither do people, students, collaborators, sometimes … To put the icing on the cake : because you voice out your emotions, and people can relate to your feelings and struggles, they somehow feel connected to you. Which is cool, as long as it remains on a “normal” scale. But some people cannot tell the difference between the public persona and the private one, and thus tend to be very intrusive …
What has changed in the music industry since you began performing until now?
I started performing professionally about ten years ago. Many things have changed in ten years, and from my little perspective and small experience, I can witness the following things : 1) it’s easier than ever to play music, and also to perform now. Which is both a good thing and a bad thing, as that democratization doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with quality. 2) Artists can now express themselves directly through social media, which is not always smart, and definitely not conducive to keeping a little bit of mystery – which is, according to me, crucial if you’re striving to create some magic. I’m a quite secretive person, so I’m definitely at odds with that. 3) We are now in the do-it-yourself era, which is cool because you can put out your own record from scratch, and be your own master. On the other hand, you don’t get the investments and the help of a bigger structure, as you could possibly ten years ago, which makes it a lot harder for artists to break through.
What is the best thing that has happened to you while you were performing?
This summer, while performing in Greece, I remember people clapping their hands during one of my songs. Apparently, they liked the choruses, and showed their enthusiasm. What a crazy feeling !
Where can fans get your CD?
“One” is available on Amazon. And of course at my shows.
Was there a moment when you knew you would become a musician?
Yes, ten years ago : I was at a Steve Lukather show, with two friends, and my ex-boyfriend who was also a musician. He was giving me a hard time, at that time, saying that he was the real deal, and how I was not good enough, blah blah … He made a very nasty comment at one point during Luke’s show, as he saw that I was very enthusiastic about him. I was almost crying. When the show was over, my lady friend and I lucked out, and were invited to come backstage and meet Steve. So I met him, and sang a Toto song for him starting with, “some people live their dreams, some people close their eyes, some people’s destiny passes by …” (“I’ll Be Over You”). He apparently liked it, and I remember saying “Mr Lukather, I would like to become a singer one day”. He answered : “you are already a singer, sweetie. And a good one”. I mean, the man is a musical legend, and has played for artists like Michael Jackson, Ringo Starr, Cher, Elton John … to name just a few ; so I figured “if that man believes in me, then I can make things happen for real”. And that was the beginning of my professional journey. When I saw him again, about 6 or 7 years later (I got to interview him for a webzine), I told him that story, and he was moved. I think it’s one of these moments of grace, when God (or karma, call it whatever you like) reveals his ways. And if you’re not too dumb or apathetic, you learn some useful lessons.
You are always very busy—what do you like to do to relax?
Indeed. In the winter time, I stay by the fireplace and watch old movies. I love cinema noir, retro-glamour movies, and old French movies. In the summer time, I withdraw from civilisation, on my Greek island, and sip cocktails & wine by the beach all day long.
Check Carmyn out at her website:http://carmyn.net/
Buy her EP One on Amazon